Teaching Each Child in My Class


Teaching Each Child in My Class

It started out as an ordinary Primary lesson. I was standing in front of my class of eight-year-olds, telling them a story of one of the latter-day prophets. When I finished, I began to question them about the moral the story taught. All hands shot into the air as the children competed to give the answer—all hands, that is, but Robert’s.

I thought nothing of it. He was new in class, and I thought perhaps he was just timid about participating on his first day. But as the answer was given and we discussed it, I noticed that Robert’s face grew more and more perplexed. He wasn’t grasping the idea. He wasn’t understanding.

The week before, I hadn’t had time to finish the lesson I had prepared. I knew that I was pressed for time again now, and so I told myself I couldn’t make the other ten children wait while I explained it again for Robert’s sake. I decided to go on. After all, I told myself, we’re bound to go over this idea again some other time.

I made one quick glance about the room to make sure the rest understood. As my eyes swept past Robert’s, my heart froze. In just a flash his face faded away and I saw my three-year-old son, Sam. Startled, I just stood there, staring at Robert as if I expected it to happen again. It didn’t then, or ever again.

Later that evening as I was reflecting on the incident, I began to feel guilty about what I had done. Suddenly it was six years from now; Sam was sitting in Robert’s chair, and I had been replaced by another teacher. She was telling the same story I had told and was getting the same response from my son that I had received from Robert.

She looked at Sam and saw that he didn’t understand. But she proceeded right on with the lesson anyway, saying to herself, “We’re bound to go over this idea again some other time. Maybe he’ll get it then.”

I watched Sam sitting alone on his chair, his feet not even touching the floor. I watched him as the rest of the class hurried on, leaving him bewildered.

Suddenly I realized the impact of what I had done. I had passed over a child of God simply because I couldn’t be bothered. I had lost an important teaching moment. I had been given the opportunity to place a child closer to his Father in Heaven, but had turned my back.

I’ve never forgotten the lesson I learned that day—that only when I have done my best on behalf of all the children I teach can I pray for the best from another teacher on behalf of my own child.

[illustration] Illustrated by Mark Robison

Dixie Casper Nelson, mother of six, is Relief Society recreation leader in her West Valley, Utah, ward.